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Will wearable computing devices make employees more productive?

Will wearable computing devices make employees more productive?

When it comes to wearable computing devices like Google glasses, most people tend to think that it is primarily a consumer play. I think those people are underestimating the huge potential for wearable computing devices in the B2B/enterprise space. In the long run, such devices could make employees even more productive.  Here are several apps that could improve employees’ productivity in a big way:

1. YourShow app: This new Google Glass app developed by a startup called PajamaNinja is one of the most innovative google apps out there. Basically through this app, google glass users can see their presentation notes in the Glass viewer, with a thumbnail of the current slide. But this gets even better as the company is currently working on a way  to do real-time translation, putting foreign-language subtitles of everything a user may say on his/her slides, enabling them to present to audiences that don’t speak English. Here are some screenshots of the YourShow app on the google glasses:

slide2 yourshowslide4 yourshow

2. Glass app for police, Firefighters and first responders: This app, developed by Mutualink, allows public safety officials to communicate in real-time via streaming video from the scene, as well as to receive and view key documents such as building schematics, medical records of victims, live feeds of security cameras in the area. Today there are similar apps for connected glasses targeting public safety officials. This includes the Motorola HC1 connected glasses, developed by Motorola and Kopin. Those glasses,  designed for field services and the defense, utilities, telecommunications, aerospace and aviation markets, can be used by firefighters to identify toxic chemicals or building blueprints during a fire. Unlike the google glasses, the HC1 has an infrared camera which allows firefighters to capture the body heat of potential victims laying on the ground, making it a lot easier to quickly rescue victims from smoky, dark and unfamiliar rooms. Those glasses can also be used for maintenance, repair, operations/overhaul (MRO) and training and simulation applications that improve inspection time and accuracy, reduce labor rates and increase safety. Here is a video of the HC1 showing some firefighters using the device.

Bottom line: You can expect to see a lot more enterprise oriented apps for connected glasses in the coming years. Those apps will make mobile workers truly mobile, hand free, and most importantly more productive. These apps will target specific verticals such as healthcare, government, real-estate, insurance, or construction.  I expect to see vendors such as SAP/Sybase, Citrix, Microsoft, Good Technology, IBM, to name a few, to jump on the bandwagon in order to take advantage of this new opportunity.

Why PC vendors/OEMs are jumping on the wearable computing bandwagon..

Why PC vendors/OEMs are jumping on the wearable computing bandwagon..

With several PC manufacturers OEMs like Sony, Motorola, and LG already entering the wearable computing market, many others are expected to follow suit in the coming months. Companies like Apple, Samsung and Google have been rumored to be working on a smart watch for some time. According to a recent report from DigiTimes, other players like Epson, Acer and HTC, are now developing such products. So why are OEMs jumping on the wearable computing bandwagon?

1. OEMs want to catch the new wave of innovation: John Sculley, former Apple CEO, made a great analogy the other day, saying: “30 years ago, we saw a true revolution in the tech industry with the emergence of personal computing (..) Today we are seeing a new wave of innovation with wearable computing“. This is why most OEMs don’t want to miss out on this new opportunity. OEMs who do not recognize such opportunity might end up being at a significant disadvantage over time.

2. The smartphone market is maturing with very little differentiation from OEMs: The smartphone market has become a mature market, where many OEMs are struggling to differentiate their devices in order to drive sales. In addition, it has become extremely difficult for smaller OEMs to compete against the Apple and Samsung of the world who have tremendous resources, and can spend heavily on marketing to sell their devices.

3. The PC/laptop market is declining due to the growing popularity of tablets: PC manufacturers such as Acer or Dell have seen their PC/laptop sales declining over the past few years due to the growing popularity of low cost connected tablets. In addition, it has become very difficult for those same players to gain traction in the tablet market, where they are facing stiff competition at the high end from giant tech companies like Apple and Samsung, and at the low end from companies like Amazon, Asus/Google, and a myriad of chinese vendors.

4. Wearable computing, a new playing field: Wearable computing market (e.g. smart watches, connected glasses, etc..) presents a great opportunity for OEMs, especially for smaller players like Sony or HTC, to try to regain momentum, innovate, in order to grow their top line. While Apple and Samsung might dominate the tablet and smartphone market today, this might not be the case for wearable computing markets over time. Sony, which is already in the smart watch market, likely went through the learning curve and got valuable feedback from its customers, which will help the company better design its products in the years to come.

5. Wearable computing could improve OEMs’ margins over time: The wearable computing space is another great opportunity for OEMs to improve their margins. In fact, although the volume of devices shipped on the consumer side of the wearable computing market is expected to be much higher than in the enterprise market, many believe that margins for enterprise oriented wearable computing devices will be much higher than for consumer oriented wearable computing devices. This is where companies like Dell, HP, Motorola, RIM, which are known for having a strong presence in the B2B space, could have a competitive advantage and leverage it to improve their margins. That said, Apple and Samsung, which have gained good traction in the B2B space in the past few years, are well positioned as well.

6. Wearable computing, a new revenue opportunity, especially for small OEMs. Some reports already suggest that the wearable computing market was worth $2.7 billion in revenue in 2012 and is expected to reach$8.3 billion in 2018, growing at an estimated CAGR of 17.71% from 2013 to 2018. Let’s face it, this is a great opportunity, especially for small OEMs like HTC, to grow their top line and improve their financial results and offset their decline smartphone business.

Bottom line: More OEMs are expected to enter the wearable computing market in the coming space. Some will enter the market, build their own product from scratch and try to grow organically, while others are likely to acquire hot wearable computing startups (e.g. Pebble, Basis, Amiigo, Metawatch, etc..) in order to gain share and acquire talent. Over time, I would expect the market to become overcrowded with a myriad of chinese OEMs entering the market with low quality – low specs devices, which will put pressure on some more established OEMs. In addition, because most OEMs do not have the expertise when it comes to wearable computing devices like smart watches or connected glasses, I would expect to see most OEMs going on a hiring spree and hire executives and fashion designers from top watch or glasses vendors, or even small wearable computing startups. This is what Apple has recently done, hiring a former YSL CEO and a Nike executive from the Nike Fuelband team, and I would expect competing OEMs to follow suit.

Forget Google glasses, it is about creating a contextual software platform for Google

Forget Google glasses, it is about creating a contextual software platform for Google

Today, Yahoo published an article claiming that the Google glasses will be dead on arrival, claiming that the glasses are too expensive, awkward to use, have a poor battery life, and are not even useful. Why all those things are true at the moment, most of these issues will be fixed when Google officially launches the glasses in 2014. I believe that Google’s ultimate goal is to build a contextual platform for wearable computing devices. Here are some additional details below:

1. Price of google glasses will likely come down to $199-299 retail:Several reports are already suggesting that the BOM cost of the google glasses is about $299. Google could potentially sell the glasses below the BOM cost..say $199 and offset the loss through advertising revenue. In fact, Google recently filed a patent called “pay-per-gaze” advertising, and it involves charging advertisers if the user looks at an ad — online or offline — while wearing Glass. Basically Google could show through the glasses location based mobile ads, monetize the Google glasses that way and generate fairly significant revenues over time. Google has done a good job monetizing its Google branded smartphones through advertising revenue, so adopting a similar strategy for the google glasses would be a natural evolution.

2.  Google likely to partner with or acquire glasses vendors to make the google glasses less geeky:  Google has been rumored since February to be in discussion with Warby Parker, a glasses vendor, who has been selling fashionable glasses for $95 online. By doing so, Google would acquire talent to help the company design more fashionable frames for its Glass product. They would also acquire a solid distribution and install base, which is something Google desperately needs. Ultimately, the Google glasses could look a lot less Geeky and fashionable. Here is an example of how the Google glasses could look like with more fashionable frames. I would also expect Google to hire top executives from major design companies or glasses vendors like Gucci or Ray-Ban. They would essentially follow the footsteps of Apple which recently hired the former YSL CEO and a Nike executive who led the Nike Fuelband initiative.

3. Battery likely to improve and become more flexible: Because of the form factor of the glasses,  we are dealing with very little real-estate to insert a large battery life. This is why I believe that over time Google could  adopt a flexible battery. As mentioned in another post, Japanese company FLCB already developed a flexible battery (see video here) which can be used on wearable computing devices like connected glasses. Another option would be to use kinetic energy, in other words the Google glasses could recharge themselves using the energy of motion, which is being converted into electrical energy. To me, this would be perfectly tailored to the Google glasses as it could leverage the energy of motion from active users as they exercise, or simply wear the glasses throughout the day.

4. The Google glasses app ecosystem will get better, with an app store at the core: This is where Google, in my opinion, is lagging at the moment. Google needs to be more vocal about how it intends to help developers create and monetize apps, and better explain how devs can use the SDK for glasses. Things like revenue share, mobile OS upgrades for google glasses, will need to be carefully explained. In addition, building a better mobile payment mechanism for android will be needed to better attract developers. Lastly, building an app store for the google glasses apps will be critical.  Right now the only app store for glasses you can find are sites like glass-apps.org but those are independent sites that are not even powered by Google today. The number of apps is still fairly limited. That said, Google is rumored to have selected about 80 apps for the google glasses. Building a strong app store and helping developers better monetize their apps is not one of Google’s core strengths. This has been an issue for Google with its Android store in the smartphone market, and I expect Google to continue to struggle in that area with the Google glasses. However, over time I expect those issues to get addressed and the Google glasses app ecosystem to improve, with the emergence of a myriad of consumer and enterprise-oriented apps.

5. Google likely to build a wearable computing software platform for a myriad of wearable computing devices, with Google Now and its upcoming contextual mobile OS at the core: I strongly believe that Google’s goal is to build a highly scalable wearable computing software platform, in much the same way that when they launched android back in 2009 to take the smartphone market by storm. In my opinion, like in the smartphone market, hardware in the wearable computing market will become a commodity over time. We will see a myriad of vendors making very similar glasses, smart watches, fitness oriented monitors, etc..which is already happening today. The biggest winners will be companies capable of creating a highly scalable wearable computing software platform. By the way, I am told that Google is building a contextual mobile OS expected to come out in 2015, which I think will be the core component of this wearable computing software platform.  This contextual mobile OS will likely be able to leverage sensors, AI (Google Now), super maps, social networks (Facebook likes, comments..), big data, all the mobile devices out there (e.g., smartphones, tablets, wearable computing devices, connected cars, etc..) and use very advanced smart algorithms. Over time this smart OS will be able to learn about users’ habits in order to predict customers’ behaviors. This will be pretty much Google Now on steroids with a lot of new contextual elements like sensors, super maps, etc.

Concretely, through this contextual mobile OS, your mobile devices will be able to tell you when you are about to get sick by leveraging sensors capable of monitoring your skin temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, etc..Those devices will also be able to proactively send a text or email to your spouse or husband to let them know that you are a little bit stressed out, so that  your family members are in the know and can reach out to you to tell you to calm down. They will also become your personal fitness coach and provide you with a customized workout as it was able to monitor your exercises over time. It will also be your personal assistant at all time, know your preferences, taste for food, shopping, etc. and say things like “Breaking news: U2 is coming to town in November 2020, would you like to book tickets online?“..then you would say: “Yes, please make a reservation, pay with my credit card on file and email my friends Joe and Stacey in San Francisco to see if they would be interested“…All this would be done through your wearable computing device via voice command and using AI. The system would be smart enough to know that you are a big fan of U2, what your credit card number is, and who Stacey and Joe are based on past conversations and contextual artificial intelligence. At the end of the day, Google’s goal should be to extend its mobile OS dominance in the smartphone and tablet market to the wearable computing space where its platform would connect connected glasses, smart watches, fitness oriented bracelets/monitors, smart shoes, smart t-shirts, etc.

Bottom line: Does anybody remember the HTC Dream, the first android smartphone? Most people don’t. And I believe that 10 years from now, few people will remember the Google glasses, at the least the first iteration of the Google glasses as we know it today. Ten years from now, I would expect Google to build a highly scalable software wearable computing platforms which will be available across a myriad of wearable computing devices (e.g. connected glasses, smart watches, smart shoes, t-shirts, smart furnitures, appliances, smart helmets, etc..) used in the consumer space as well as select verticals like contraction, healthcare, government, insurance..or even connected cars.